writing vacation

Awhile back, my friend Rod and I talked about how fun it would be to write a book together. He is all about the plot, about moving things forward and telling amazing stories full of imagination. He has one of the most vivid and hilarious imaginations of anyone I’ve ever met. Me, I like words, and characters, and my stories tend to be quieter, have longer sentences, be predicated on quiet shifts and tiny epiphanies. This is good, as small stories go, but I have always longed to tell the great epic tale of crazy adventure in which things blow up and people brawl and gods are fought and wars are won. I have always had a fondness for genre, which I have never been able to write; Rod has always wanted to deepen his stories, to not just go for the joke, but for the gut. Our styles complement each other, and our secret writing wishes, to an astonishing degree.

Since 2006, we’ve been talking about writing a book. In 2007, he put together an outline. We even wrote a couple of chapters together, swapping back and forth–one of us writes, the other edits, and then a final polish, and then flipping roles on the next section, continuing back and forth. It worked out swimmingly, and we produced three chapters in quick succession, and then–as is not unusual for me–I got busy, and though I swore I wasn’t abandoning it, that I was just taking a break, that I would get back to it as soon as possible, I pretty much abandoned the project.

A few months ago, we had been talking about Rod having vacation coming
up, that he should come visit me for a low-key kind of week, and then
we started talking about maybe a writing vacation. Hanging out, banging
out our various projects–and then, someone said, what about our own
project, from so long ago. Maybe we could work on the book. Maybe we
could resurrect it, and see what happens. Maybe it wouldn’t suck. Maybe
became the order of the day. Rod seemed pretty sure it wouldn’t suck. I
was terrified.

It doesn’t suck. Those words we wrote more than a year ago–they are not
bad at all. They are frequently funny. They are a start of a book that
has an immense amount of potential, I think. The best part, though, my
favorite part, the part that amazes and delights me and makes me think
that maybe my brain hasn’t entirely rotted away and been replaced by
Jell-O with suspended grapes and raisins, is the fact that it feels
just wonderful, diving into these old chapters to rewrite them. I dig
into the paragraphs, and I don’t look up for an hour or even two, while
I wrestle with the plot and slap around the characters and choreograph
fight scenes with minotaurs and scenes of betrayals with assassins and
scenes of drunken debauchery with ale-drinking villagers.

It is wonderful, and engrossing, and even if it turns out to be the
worst book ever written in the English language, I will love it
completely, because I have missed this, this feeling of creativity,
this absolute pleasure in storytelling, in creating a scene and
thinking about character motivation and brainstorming. The outline that
Rod originally created was a sketch of the book, and that has been
invaluable, guiding us along and keeping us motivated, but it is
fantastic to watch it deepen and complicate and become more, and more
interesting. It’s not just humorous epic fantasy–it’s a book, with
interesting characters I like, and want to write more about. I don’t
think it is going to be the worst book ever written in the English

We’ve edited, swapping back and forth, the first three chapters and a
prologue, and it feels like a real book. I have a whole new chapter to
write, and I’m even halfway through it, and jotting down notes when I’m
away from the computer, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been this
excited about something I’ve been writing. It’s opening things up in my
head, it feels good, I don’t want to stop. Why did I ever stop? This is
a vacation for Rod, but it feels kind of like a homecoming for me.

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